Myanmar Forms Central Committee to Coordinate Coronavirus Response

By Zarni Mann 31 January 2020

MANDALAY – The Myanmar President’s Office on Friday announced the formation of a special committee to tackle the coronavirus chaired by the Union minister for international cooperation and the minister of health and sports.

The announcement was made public on the same day that the first foreign visitor to Myanmar suspected of carrying the virus, a Chinese passenger on a flight from Guangzhou, was identified at Yangon International Airport and taken to a hospital in the city for further observation.

The Central Committee to Prevent, Control and Treat the 2019 Novel Coronavirus was formed one day after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a global health emergency.

The President’s Office said the committee was formed to enable a quick reaction and coordinate the responses of ministries and departments if the virus is found in the country.

The committee comprises the chief ministers of all states and regions, and the vice ministers of information; defense services; border affairs; transportation; hotels and tourism; education; commerce; and finance and planning.

In its announcement, the President’s Office instructed the committee to coordinate the activities of each institution to monitor and control the spread of the virus, and to provide timely information about the virus to locals and foreign tourists, as well as travelers leaving the country.

The President’s Office said the committee would issue safety measures to be followed by members of surveillance teams at international airports, border checkpoints, ports, hospitals and health centers.

It said the committee will ensure the public receives accurate and up-to-date information and would follow both internal health regulations and protocols established by the WHO and the International Civil Aviation Organization to prevent, treat and control the coronavirus.

The committee will also be responsible for importing laboratory equipment, personal protective equipment and masks, the President’s Office said.

The office instructed the committee to manage the evacuation of the more than 60 Myanmar students currently stranded in Wuhan, China—the city where the coronavirus outbreak originated—by arranging charter flights, conducting screenings and monitoring the students’ health when they return to the country.

The government has worked out an evacuation plan for the students, who are studying at a university in the Chinese city. The Myanmar Embassy in Beijing announced on Thursday that a chartered plane is ready and awaiting a green light from the Chinese government to evacuate the students from Wuhan, which is currently in lockdown.

The embassy said the Myanmar government is hoping to bring the students home over the weekend, but would follow the protocols and health guidelines issued by the WHO and China.

The charter flight from Wuhan is expected to arrive at either Yangon International Airport or Mandalay International Airport.

The Waibagi Infectious Diseases Hospital in Yangon, and the Kandawnadi Hospital in Mandalay, operating under the Ministry of Health, have made preparations to monitor the returned students’ health.

According to the WHO, 18 countries have reported coronavirus infections including Thailand, India, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Vietnam, France, Australia and the US. Outside China, there have been eight cases of human-to-human transmission reported, in Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the US.

The death toll in China has reached 213, with over 8,000 confirmed cases, Chinese health authorities said on Thursday.

The Myanmar government has yet to report any confirmed coronavirus infections in the country.

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